While waiting in line for coffee the other day, I looked around the shop and ”people-watched”. At one table there were 4 adults and 5 children and I thought perhaps two families were having coffee together. At first I was envious when I saw the 2 year boy sitting on his dad’s lap touching an I-Pad. My first thought was, “I wish I had an I-Pad.” Then I saw that the 3 year old girl and her mother were doing the same on a different I-Pad. Another dad was working at his computer while an infant lay in a baby carrier beside him. A 7 year old girl was playing a hand-held computer game. Finally, the other mom was talking on her cell phone while holding a baby. As I took this all in, I wasn’t envious anymore. I was concerned.
The children were not communicating with the adults or with each other. There was no eye-contact, no verbalizations, no smiles. Children learn by interacting with and observing others, and what these children were learning at that moment was how to communicate with objects . They watched how their parents communicated with things and learned it well. But have the children learned social communication? Have they learned the importance of looking at someone when they talk to them, or how to actively listen to another person? Have they learned to empathize or show concern? I don’t know. I only saw this one, tiny snapshot of their lives. Perhaps this was an unusual occurrence for these families, however, many of us have probably witnessed similar situations.
I am not against technology by any means. I use technology and rely on it every day. I still want an I-Pad! But I encourage every parent, especially during a young child’s development, to focus on communication and how to get along with others in the social world. Having good social and communication skills will help your children become successful adults. Technology has its place, but I wonder what the long-term impact for kids and families might be?
Thea Zitzow, M.Ed
Go to www.Uflipp.com for information about Thea and her co-author’s new book, Every Kid’s Guide to Living Your Best Life